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The employee service portal is dead.

The employee service portal is dead.

pink background, employee using employee service portal

Do you still head down to your local video rental store on the weekend? Do video rental stores even exist in your area anymore? 

If you’re like most of the world, probably not. These stores were hugely popular for finding movies to watch at home. Then came the disruption. Netflix and other streaming companies came up with a much more convenient alternative, soon turning video stores into a relic of the past. 

The same is true of the employee service portal in the business world.

What is an employee service portal?

An employee service portal is the place employees can go to get service from HR, IT, or other business teams. They have historically been used by companies as a repository of information and resources for employees. Often, the portal connects to a case tracking or ticketing system, and may include self-service functionality.

While that all sounds valuable in theory, there are better alternatives to the employee service portal – and it’s time to move on.

Problems with the employee service portal

There are a host of issues with the employee service portal as it currently stands:

  • Tool overload – Employees already have to keep track of too many tools at work. Forcing employees into a separate system they only need a few times a month – or even less – creates complexity and disrupts their work.
  • Not human enough – Driven by trends in the consumer world, employees now expect a conversational experience. They’d rather send a message than fill out tickets and navigate complex interfaces.
  • Low adoption – Instead of logging into the portal, employees ask a colleague or send direct messages and emails that flood your team’s inbox.
  • Too much bureaucracy – If an employee does ask a question directly to someone in HR, it’s overly bureaucratic to respond with “If you want my help, please use this portal” – even if that’s the process you’ve set up.
  • Poor experience – A portal means another login to remember and another user interface for the employee to get used to. Over time, this disrupts their workflow, as they’re forced to switch between apps to get help.

The alternative: Employee service in the flow of work

Instead of using employee service portals, modern People Ops calls for integrating employee service directly into the flow of work.

To make the process seamless, employees should be able to ask questions and make requests directly from the systems they use every day, whether that’s Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, or email. Getting help within a user interface they’re already familiar with mediates the disruption to the workflow.

If employees send a message via one of these platforms, it should be possible to turn it into a request automatically – instead of the added bureaucracy of telling them to go somewhere else to make a request.

Then, ensure the employee can receive responses and status updates in the same channel where they sent the request. This way, there’s no going back and forth between systems and no uncertainty over the status.

Finally, remember the experience should be conversational. That’s also what employees expect as consumers in their private life.

It all comes back to enabling people to easily get help where they work, rather than sending them to a disconnected system or making them jump through hoops.

Moving employee service into the modern world

While 73% of full-time U.S. workers expect their employer to offer a high level of employee self-service, the employee service portal is not the ideal vessel for this need.

Remember, it’s not the “self-service” part that’s the problem – it’s where it’s happening and how employees experience it.

In the same way that we moved on from video rental stores with the advent of streaming services, our teams should prioritize moving on from the portal.

If you’re looking to modernize your employee service beyond the old school portal, consider a solution like Back.

Back connects knowledge automation (to instantly answer questions) and conversational ticketing (to track requests). Employees access Back from Slack and other apps they use every day, while service team members use Back’s purpose-built web app.

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